Posted on 05 December 2023
WCPF group photos of participants. National Auditorium, Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
© Ravai Vafoou
Rarotonga, Cook Islands (04 December, 2023) – Decisions made during the 20th session of Western Central Pacific fisheries Commission (WCPFC20) will profoundly influence the future of tuna and other highly migratory fish stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO).
These decisions are pivotal for communities that rely on fisheries for their livelihoods. The WWF-led CSO Observer delegation emphasizes the need for aligning WCPFC20 outcomes with Sustainable Development Goal 14 and its specific targets, including regulating harvesting, ending overfishing, combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and related issues, and addressing destructive practices.
According to a 2021 report prepared for the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) by MRAG Asia Pacific, the value of tuna harvested or transshipped in the Pacific tuna fisheries involving IUU fishing activity was estimated at US$333.49 million annually for the study period 2017 – 2019[1]. Collaboration is strongly encouraged particularly with those developing technologies relating to improving monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) and with CSOs and NGOs working in the fisheries space. They bring with them a wealth of knowledge that can contribute to the reduction of IUU fishing in the WCPO.
Issues and Recommendations
The WWF-led CSO Observer group is taking advantage of the hybrid nature of the meeting with a few attending virtually while four will be attending face-to-face. The delegation members include the Human Dignity Group, Locally Managed Marine Area Network International, Micronesia Conservation Trust, Pacific Conference of Churches, Pacific Islands Association of Non-governmental Organisations, Pacific Islands News Association, and WWF-Pacific. They have identified their shared critical concerns that include:
  1. Observer Participation at WCPFC
Limited observer participation, restricted media access, and lack of transparency in decision-making hinder accountability. Recommendations include:
  • Allowing observers access to all sessions.
  • Involving expertise from NGOs and the private sector.
  • Reviewing participation fees for observers.
  1. Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs)
The environmental impact of FADs on coastal communities and small-scale fisheries necessitates:
  • Stronger measures for FAD marking and tracking.
  • Research on non-entangling and biodegradable FAD materials.
  • Monitoring of non-entangling FADs.
  1. Security, Safety, and Well-being of Crew and Observers
Despite efforts, incidents highlight the need for binding measures, including:
  • Implementation of binding measures for crew welfare.
  • Mandatory reporting of incidents.
  • Transparency on investigations into human rights violations.
  1. Longline Fisheries Observer Coverage
Acknowledging the need for greater observer coverage, CSOs recommend:
  • Increased observer coverage on longline vessels.
  • Prioritizing monitoring through human observers or electronic monitoring.
  1. Transshipment
Addressing at-sea transshipment issues requires:
  • Prohibiting at-sea transshipments.
  • Real-time reporting for all transshipment activities.
  • 100% observer coverage.
  1. Harvest Strategies
Urgent implementation of harvest strategies for all tuna species is crucial for long-term sustainability and market access.
  1. Sharks
To protect threatened shark species, recommendations include:
  • Revising conservation measures for sharks.
  • Encouraging national plans of action on sharks.
  • Ensuring safe handling and release practices.
The CSO delegation emphasizes shared concerns for fishery sustainability and the safety of fishing crew and observers. They await the outcomes of WCPFC20 with hope that the recommendations are considered.
WWF is an accredited observer at WCPFC, and is participating at the WCPFC20, leading a team of Pacific-based CSOs.

Media Contact:
Ravai Vafo’ou
Communications Officer, WWF-Pacific
Phone/Whats App: +679 238 2192
[1] MRAG Asia Pacific (2021). The Quantification of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing in the Pacific Islands Region – a 2020 Update. 125 p.
WCPF group photos of participants. National Auditorium, Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
© Ravai Vafoou Enlarge
Opening ceremony at National Auditorium, Rarotonga Cook Islands
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WWF Observer representatives at WCPFC 20
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WCPFC20 delegates during the opening ceremony at the National Auditorium.
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